Communists, Democrats, and Guns – Let’s get things straight!

This is Part 1 of a series on Communists and Guns, in which we will discuss the historical relationship between leftists and private gun ownership. In Part 2 we will examine the ongoing debate among modern leftists on the issue of gun control.

So many of these shooters turn out to be communist Democrats, that I suspect they are doing these things to push for gun control so they can more easily take over the country.

Larry Pittman

Pictured: NC State Rep and Silly Goose Larry Pittman

These words were written a couple of weeks ago by Republican North Carolina State Representative Larry Pittman in an article about arming teachers.

As a leftist, I get incredibly annoyed whenever conservatives conflate liberals with communists. As I’ve discussed previously, the ideology of centrist liberalism goes against nearly everything communists, anarchists, and all true leftists stand for. Indeed, to leftists, a liberal is an enemy of the working class, just like any rightwinger.

Still, in the minds of traditional rightwing conservatives, the phrase “communist Democrats” makes sense, because they have no idea what differentiates centrist liberalism from the true left.

(Not sure yourself? You can check out my video on some of the differences here!)

Marx’s reasoning on why workers needed armaments wasn’t much different from the reasoning the framers of the United States constitution had for writing the 2nd amendment.

Leftists have been discussing arming the people for over a century, stretching all the way back to Marx himself, who advocated for putting weapons in the hands of communists:

“The workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition. . .”

Marx’s reasoning on why workers needed armaments wasn’t much different from the reasoning the framers of the United States constitution had for writing the 2nd amendment. For Marx, is was all about enabling the masses to resist tyranny:

“The workers must try to organize themselves independently as a proletarian guard, with elected leaders and with their own elected general staff; they must try to place themselves not under the orders of the state authority but of the revolutionary local councils set up by the workers. . . Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.”

The Anarchist blog Defacing Currency has a great write-up on the wider context of that quote here, and I highly recommend you give it a read if you’re interested in this topic.

The Russian Red Guard was comprised of armed workers.

Fast forward to the 20th century and you’ll see that every Communist revolution relied heavily on arming workers to fight. Some of the first actions of the Bolsheviks at the beginning of the Russian Communist revolution was to seize garrisons and armaments for worker and peasant armies.

Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong believed that armed revolution was critically important. His position is best summarized with his famous quip: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Cuban revolutionary fighter Che Guevara, who traveled around the world for years spurring Communist uprisings in developing countries, was absolutely an advocate for arming workers for revolution:

Arms cannot be commodities in our world. They must be delivered to the peoples asking for them to use against the common enemy, with no charge and in the quantities needed and available.

Viet Cong Female Fighter

The Vietnamese Communists worked tirelessly to provide arms to farmers in Southern Vietnam.

…the Vietnamese began their war effort woefully outgunned…

Vo Nguyen Giap, the Communist architect of the victories over the French and Americans in Vietnam, makes it clear that gun control in Vietnam under French colonial rule made it very difficult for the Vietnamese to arm themselves in his collection of papers People’s War, People’s Army.

As a result, the Vietnamese began their war effort woefully outgunned, and had to rely on seizing weapons from the enemy in order to continue fighting. This lead to tremendous losses, which was why Vo believed that securing high quality military arms was vital for any revolutionary war effort:

. . .because of our inferior weapons, in the Resistance War our army and people had to fight in extremely hard and difficult circumstances, to make great sacrifices and shed much blood. We must always realise that inferiority in arms and equipment is a big weakness that must be overcome at all costs.

For hundreds of kilometers along the clandestine Ho Chi Minh Trail and in the cramped Cu Chi Tunnels, Viet Cong guerrillas transported, invented, and repaired weapons. The vast majority of these fighters were common peasants — “a rifle on their shoulder by day, working in the fields by night,” as a war-time Vietnamese documentary put it.

So it’s clear that the 20th century Communist leaders were heavily in favor of distributing weapons to the masses in times of revolution. Once victory was seized, however, policy quickly shifted. Setting the precedent for banning gun control were the Soviet authorities, who confiscated thousands of privately owned weapons and clashed with farmers over the possession of hunting rifles during collectivization in the immediate post-revolutionary period.

Fidel Castro on the radio

Fidel Castro quickly removed firearms from private possession after the establishment of a communist state in Cuba.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro had a similar initiative, defending his decision to seize guns in a 1959 radio address:

As soon as possible I will take the rifles off the streets. There are no more enemies, there is no longer anything to fight against, and if some day any foreigner or any movement comes up against the revolution, all the people will fight. The weapons belong in the barracks. No one has the right to have private armies here.”

This seems to have been universal policy for Cold War Communist countries. In my research I haven’t been able to find any post-revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Communist state in history that allowed for the private possession of firearms.

In short, the 20th century Marxist-Leninist leaders were aggressively in favor of arming the masses… until victory was secured. Once a functioning Communist state was established, it became an early order of business to enact gun control legislation and abolish private ownership of firearms.

What about historical anarchists? Although there has never been a successful Anarcho-Communist revolution in history, we can look at the words and actions of early anarchists to get some idea of their thoughts on armed revolution and gun control.

Kropotkin

Pictured: Sweet Old Bread Man Pyotr Kropotkin

Pyotr Kropotkin, perhaps the most prominent and influential anarchist thinker of the 19th and early 20th centuries, seemed dismayed by the concept of war and armed conflict. Indeed, one of his most stinging criticisms of capitalist states is their propensity to make war:

All the nations evolve on the same lines, and wars, perpetual wars, break out for the right of precedence in the market. Wars for the possession of the East, wars for the empire of the sea, wars to impose duties on imports and to dictate conditions to neighbouring states; wars against those “blacks” who revolt! The roar of the cannon never ceases in the world, whole races are massacred, the states of Europe spend a third of their budgets in armaments; and we know how heavily these taxes fall on the workers.

Nevertheless, the book these words are lifted from – The Conquest of Bread – is essentially a manual for securing a permanent victory during and after armed revolution. I believe his hope was that an armed revolution would be as quick and bloodless as possible, as evidenced by this passage about how rapidly popular revolts tended to take place in his time:

The former Government having disappeared, the army, hesitating before the tide of popular opinion, no longer obeys its commanders, who have also prudently decamped. The troops stand by without interfering, or join the rebels.

He also touches on this idea of a short-lasting revolt in his earlier work “The Spirit of Revolt,” which is a pamphlet dealing with armed revolutions:

One courageous act has sufficed to upset in a few days the entire governmental machinery, to make the colossus tremble; another revolt has stirred a whole province into turmoil, and the army, till now always so imposing, has retreated before a handful of peasants armed with sticks and stones. The people observe that the monster is not so terrible as they thought they begin dimly to perceive that a few energetic efforts will be sufficient to throw it down. Hope is born in their hearts, and let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions.

Other anarchists were not nearly as turned off by violence as Kropotkin.

Kropotkin knew that armed revolution was necessary even if he found it unsavory, and he believed that a popular movement could seize power very quickly so long as the revolutionary masses were properly motivated (and properly fed), which is a relatively pacifistic and optimistic view for a revolutionary figure to hold.

Other anarchists were not nearly as turned off by violence as Kropotkin. Indeed, early anarchists were infamous in their day for violent acts, which they termed “propaganda of the deed.”

Johann Most

Johann Most was a strong advocate for the use of violence in anarchist struggle

“We preach not only action in and for itself, but also action as propaganda,” said German-American anarchist Johann Most, advocating for terrorism and targeted acts of violence to publicize the anarchist cause. Most was involved with the Haymarket Square bombing, a famous anarchist terrorist incident of the 19th century. He called for such acts directly, writing:

The existing system will be quickest and most radically overthrown by the annihilation of its exponents. Therefore, massacres of the enemies of the people must be set in motion.

Such acts of violence were common enough in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that anarchists were popularly nicknamed “bomb-throwers” by newspapers of the era. Here it also bears reminding that it was an anarchist named Gavrilo Princip whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand lead directly to the outbreak of World War I.

Early Spanish anarchists also relied on carrying private arms to fight against corporate mercenaries and carried out targeted assassinations as they fought against capitalists and fascists. Unfortunately, and perhaps ironically, it was largely a lack of armaments which ultimately lead to their failure to defeat Franco’s army – which was much better equipped by contributions of tanks, airplanes, and other military weapons by the Nazi Third Reich.

The idea that historic communists would have wanted to remove guns from private ownership in a state like the USA is preposterous.

It goes without saying that comparing modern-day liberals in the USA and historic communists in impoverished and oppressed feudalistic and colonial countries is a fool’s errand… but for the sake of argument against rightwing would-be pundits, let’s give it a try, anyway:

The idea that historic communists would have wanted to remove guns from private ownership in a state like the USA is preposterous. The USA is the world leader in capitalist-imperialist oppression and unquestionably holds a pre-revolutionary status in the eyes of any true leftist. Even Marxist-Leninist authoritarian Communists like Castro, Stalin and Mao would never have moved to disarm the masses prior to a successful overthrow of capitalism.

Che Guevara with a handgun

Say what you will about Che, the dude was not a liberal

Liberals seek, above all else, to preserve capitalism and the status quo. The last thing any comfortable middle- or upper-class liberal centrist would desire would be an armed revolution by the working people. A Communist fighter like Che Guevara would be horrified by the thought of workers handing over weapons to the government of a pre-revolutionary capitalist-imperialist state (even if he, as an authoritarian Marxist-Leninist, might fully support seizing weapons once capitalism is overthrown and a Communist state is established).

In summary, the claim that modern day Democrats are in any way reminiscent of Cold War-era Communist figures when it comes to gun control is preposterous and lacks any kind of nuanced understanding of leftist ideology, struggle, and history.

But what about modern day Communists and Anarchists? What do we, the living and breathing Leftists of 2018, have to say about gun control in a place like modern day America, with all of our mass shootings and street violence and suicides and unconscionable police shootings?

Find out: Click here to read part 2!

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